Sep 182019

Sunshine, twenty four degrees and a gentle breeze welcomed ten of us to this wonderful reserve in Essex. The RSPB acquired this site from the MoD in 2000, who used it as a test firing range and it was officially opened in 2006.

After a chat with two of the wardens, Bill and Pat, we made our way down the ramp, pausing to watch the small birds on the feeders, then to the Purfleet scrape. Unfortunately, due to a lack of heavy rain (unlike our last visit here) the scrape was empty, apart from a distant female kestrel, that was perched on an iron gate. However, undeterred, we decided to continue clockwise for a change.

Large flocks of starlings and house sparrows we seen darting in between bushes, whilst the rasping song of a Cettis warbler was heard close by. Water voles could be heard ’plopping’ in the adjacent

ditch and an abundance of dragon/damselflies drifted by and perched in the sunshine.  A lone grey heron was spotted close by – first on a fence, then in the field. It stayed for a few minutes before heading off to join another, way in the distance.

A sparrowhawk was circling over the fields and three common buzzards glided majestically on the thermals.

At the Marshland discovery hide, Terry spotted a bird in the water that was making ID awkward because

of the light. It transpired to be a tufted duck in eclipse plumage (thanks Howard). Goldfinches, great tits, blue tits and linnets were noted before we arrived at the turnstile bridge. Here, a friend of ours, John Humble, beckoned us over and he informed us that bearded tits were in the reeds directly in front of us. Sure enough, within a minute, the group had excellent sightings of these beautiful birds. What a great sight and sound!

Onwards towards the reedbed discovery zone for a well-earned lunch break. During this, a beardie was heard ‘pinging’, a kestrel flew overhead and other people were keeping a close eye out for a weasel that had just been spotted. No luck for Suffolk Terry, Hazel and I unfortunately. Moving on, a water rail was heard and perhaps a juvenile?

The shooting butts hide gave us Canada and greylag geese, teal, avocet, black-tailed godwits, mallard and excellent views of two hobby’s that were feeding on the dragonflies.

Views over the Aveley scrape in the shimmering light, gave us various gulls, cormorant, little egret, mute swan, lapwing, coot and snipe, amongst others.

The Ken Barrett hide yielded moorhen, ruff and a lovely Green sandpiper. The reserve has just opened an area for us to see Ivy bees at close quarters and good it is too. Watch the website for possible further information.

The barn owl was showing in its box as another Cettis warbler sang its song. The feeders had long tailed, blue and great tits in the area – no ratty this time though.

A Willow Emerald damselfly was found by Malcolm and he proceeded to explain to us and another group, various characteristics about this colourful creature – all good stuff!

We decided to walk around the woodlands discovery zone to look for the clouded yellow butterfly – alas, it didn’t emerge, so, off to the cordite store where tree pipits were reported earlier. Nothing showing for us unfortunately, however, the local, friendly Robin required some mealworms and Sally held out her hand, filled with the worms. We

didn’t have to wait long before this little beauty flew down onto Sally’s hand and gratefully accepted the food – excellent!

After another scan across the reserve, we sheltered from the heat in the award winning visitor centre and treated ourselves to drinks and food from the lovely café.

A great day out, with 46 species noted, along with various butterflies and other insects. Many thanks to all that attended .

Steve and Hazel.

Thanks to Steve and Terry for the photographs.